Providence Business News Features Sail Newport
From the July 18, 2011 edition
Sailing center gives crucial boost to Newport tourism
By Denise Perreault
PBN Staff Writer
Brad Read, a native of Seekonk who’s been a sailor since he was a kid, heads Sail Newport Inc., a nonprofit center based at Fort Adams in Newport. He’s also a key leader of the sailing community in the City by the Sea, particularly those working to bring back the America’s Cup. Read is committed to helping people, especially youngsters, learn how to sail and to bringing important sailing events to Rhode Island.
He recently spoke with Providence Business News about Sail Newport, Fort Adams and the role both play in the state’s tourism and hospitality industries.
PBN: Tell us about Sail Newport.
READ: Sail Newport was founded in 1983 after [Newport’s] loss of the America’s Cup, to bring special, international sailing events to Newport. Since then, we became tied in at Fort Adams State Park with the R.I. Department of Environmental Management to form one of the top, public-access sailing centers in the world, in my opinion. We have nearly 1,000 children going through sailing programs every year. We have adult, learn-to-sail programs. We have rental programs with sailboats. We have storage opportunities at a very economical rate for people who want to store sailboats on land. And one of our major activities, which a lot of people know me for, is bringing in regattas.
PBN: How many people does Sail Newport help every year?
READ: We’ve come up with a number that approaches 10,000 people a year that come to Sail Newport for different programs. … We push the availability of sailing and sail-related programs to an economically diverse population. We provide financial aid to any family that can’t quite swing it and we also do pro-bono programs [for civic groups and schools, among others]. … With our current board of directors, we have a solid educational base that we want to build on.
PBN: How many people work at Sail Newport?
READ: We employ five full-time, year-around staff members. We then go up to 45 employees over the course of the summer, from May 1 to Oct. 1. … We’re just north of a $1 million [operating] budget a year and we try as a nonprofit, although we are a public charity, to be as close to 90 percent user-fee-based as we can. … We have an endowment that has just started in the last six months, with pledges over half-a-million dollars, which we hope to really ramp up in 2011 and 2012.
PBN: An economic-impact analysis conducted by Performance Research in Newport shows that three 2009 regattas run by Sail Newport resulted in a total of $2.8 million in new, direct spending. Is this generally representative of the regattas that Sail Newport brings in?
READ: Those three events were pulled from approximately 30 events we hosted in Newport that summer. … Those three were picked because one is a world championship, one is a major youth event and one is what we call a multiclass event, which is our annual Newport regatta. They were picked because they represent the kind of medium-to-big events that we run every year. …
What we can do midweek for tourism, I think, is so important for the hospitality, food and beverage industry. I believe it’s crucial for us not to step on weekends. These sailing events are participation-based and these people want to do it, they take time off from their jobs. Sure, some have to be on weekends, but as many as we can, we schedule in the middle of the summer on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
PBN: So you schedule the big regattas, as much as you can, in the middle of the week. Is that mostly to help the tourism industry?
READ: It is to help the participants, too, because you can’t find anyplace to stay on Friday and Saturday nights here. We help, not only the bed-and-breakfasts and the tourism industry and the hospitality industry, but also the people who are visiting [because they] can find better places to stay for less money. And also the waterways are a little bit less crowded.
Sailing center gives crucial boost to Newport tourism
(Page 3 of 3)
PBN: What kind of improvements would you like to see at Fort Adams?
READ: First of all, DEM and Janet Coit, the new director, have really done a great job pushing the future of maritime, marine-side development forward in anticipation of being able to create what I consider the best aquatic convention center in North America. Fort Adams State Park could host some of the most fabulous regattas in the world. … We have this venue [other groups besides Sail Newport] can utilize to bring their events to the best sailing area on the planet.
Some of these infrastructure changes have already started. We’ve just been able to get a road paved that was very important to us, [the state] did the paving and they took the [traffic] islands out. Now, if we can solidify an agreement with the America’s Cup event authority to have a World Series event here in 2012, it will expedite even more of these infrastructure changes.
PBN: What kind of Fort Adams improvements would be the best?
READ: I think the Fort Adams Trust and Fort Adams, you know, are gems. That building is a gem and I would love to see those guys [at the trust] have the funding in place to completely renovate the west wall of the fort. It is the most spectacular view-scape in Narragansett Bay, it is unbelievable.
I would love to see our pier network improved so we could add more floating docks. I also think that more in the way of [utilities] such as fiber-optics, water and sewer upgrades, could happen in the area of the northern-most parking lot. We would love to work with DEM on any of the on-the-water assets that could be upgraded because a big part of the park here is the accessibility to the fort from the water. •
POSITION: Executive director, Sail Newport Inc.
BACKGROUND: Before becoming executive director of the nonprofit Sail Newport Inc. in 1998, he worked for Shore Sails on Aquidneck Island, a company acquired by North Sails in 1996, making and selling sails all over the world, a position that required him to provide instruction to clients. He has taught sailing at Barrington Yacht Club, Nantucket Yacht Club, in Boston and Marblehead, Mass.
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in history from Boston University, 1986
FIRST JOB: Mowing lawns in Seekonk for family and friends